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3 Keys to a Successful Project Kickoff

Kickoff sets the tone for the entire project. You need a powerful vision, team, and plan to drive it.

I’ve led or attended dozens of or kickoff meetings, from small internal projects to large multi-year programs. In my experience, regardless of size or setting, the most successful ones focus on a trio of big-picture items: a vision, a team, and a plan.

Project Vision—Why

Inspiring others to act begins with why. During the kickoff meeting, share your vision for the project. Guided by the charter, explain why you’re doing it, why it’s important, and why it aligns with organizational goals.

Related Article: Managing the Kickoff Process

An inspiring vision unifies and motivates the project team to act. Communicate it clearly up front. Steve Jobs said, “If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.”

Project Team—Who

Who will fulfill the vision? Team members must work together throughout the project, so they should start off on the right foot. Though informal planning meetings have already occurred, kickoff is an opportunity to formally acquaint everyone. Have members introduce themselves, describe their skills, and explain how they hope to contribute. During the meeting, establish an expectation of collaboration. Encourage participants to share ideas and ask questions. Allow time for networking after the meeting.

Kickoff is the time to discuss everyone’s roles and begin team development. As Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

Project Plan—What, How, When

Now that you know why you’re doing the project and who’s involved, the project plan defines the remaining details. You’ve already developed a charter; now share it with the entire team and get consensus.

The scope is the what—a suite of tasks designed to meet the goals. It specifies the size of the effort, what is and isn’t included, and how tasks are organized. Refer to the charter.

The approach is the how. What processes will we use? What assumptions are we making? How will we make decisions? How will we communicate? Get everyone to agree on how they will complete the work.

The schedule is the when. It specifies deadlines for individual tasks and milestones. A commitment to schedule encourages teamwork and on-time project delivery.

In the words of Alan Lakein, “Planning is bringing the future into the present so you can do something about it now.”

Beyond the Kickoff Meeting

While the meeting is the official beginning, kickoff is really more of a process than an event. Revisit the vision, the team, and the plan periodically to maintain the big-picture and promote optimal project performance.

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